Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wittgenstein, Anglicanism and Patrimony

A few years ago, I started to wonder about what it means to be an Anglican somewhat prior to the events of what happened a year later. As I've grown older and read more and tried to be a better thinker, it struck me that there are more ways of defining something than giving an axiomatic definition. Wittgenstein's approach of family resemblances gives quite a fresh take on the situation.

The idea is that in a large family, it is clear that now two members of that family are identical. In a mathematical/axiomatic framework, a definition would require that two things would have the same defining category if and only if they satisfied all the requirements. This doesn't work for Art, Poetry, or Religion. Not all Religions have gods, not all Art is beautiful, not all Poetry rhymes.

Wittgenstein notices that one recognises people from the same family by resemblances that, while not common to all members of the family are common to some. Think of the old lady at the bus stop who makes the Wittgensteinian definition of the new baby with the words, "aww, he's got his father's eyes!"

Art, for example might be defined by something which possesses features such as manufactured, designed to stir the emotions, to depict what's truly real, a painting, or a sculpture, or a manipulation of a medium, et c. The more of these features an object has in common with what we would recognise as being a Work of Art, the more easily it can indeed be identified as a work of art. Of course, we have to agree with what the resemblances of "Works of Art" are in the first place. I think it might be quite difficult to find anyone who would say that the Mona Lisa is not Art, so perhaps there is a general Wittgensteinian definition that would fit, at least in a sizable majority.

The same may well be true for this thing called Anglicanism.

In 2009, at the above link, I suggested that:

Listening to the people around me, I hear that one is Anglican

1) by continuing in the Apostolic Succession with Anglican Bishops;

2) by the continued use of Scripture, Tradition and Right Reason in
continuity with the great Anglican Divines – Hooker, Andrewes et al;

3) by agreeing with the principles ["of church polity" I should have added - a bit late now!] laid down at the Reformation;

4) by worshipping in the same places, in the same buildings as

5) by being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury;

6) by being a Christian subject of Queen Elizabeth II and her

7) by adhering to traditional Anglican liturgies;

I might also be tempted to add:

8) by seeking some via media between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism;

9) by taking the XXXIX articles as the basis of one's dogmatic system;

10) by rejecting Apostolicae Curae;

11) by holding to the three Creeds and first seven Ecumenical Councils;

12) by recognising the Anglican Church is part of the One True Church and is only part.

I am sure that there are other criteria that one could meet. I would say of course that there is a necessary condition

0) by being a practising Christian.

Criterion (0) is certainly a sine qua non though there are some who would reject even this.

The more resemblances one shares with that which is Anglican, the more one can be recognised as Anglican and vice versa. Of course this rules out absolute certainty as to who is or isn't Anglican and then perhaps we can see how, unlike a mathematical definition, there is room in a Wittgensteinian definition for the principle of Charity and the need for listening to others. Does this lend us to a 13th criterion?

13) by attributing the only certainties that exist are fathomable by a Transcendent and Immanent God.

Did I leave anything out?


edpacht1 said...

Seems a pretty fair list, so long as one avoids thinking that all of them apply to all Anglicans, and so long as one recognizes that all of them are subject to fine tuning by various Anglicans. I would need to do so for most of them.

Via Media - I do not accept this as indicating any such thing as a position midway between Rome and the Protestants, but rather as an overarching realization that truth does not lie in the extremes, but rather that apparent opposites bring us to a balance point, and that is where truth is found.

Reformation - I think a truly Anglican view both respects the Reformation and treats it with caution, as a phenomenon that both restored neglected truth and mistakenly obscured other truths.

I do not accept the 39 articles as a credal formulary, but rather as a voice that must be heard in examining the questions it raises.

I would not consider continuity of place to have much weight, at least not any more, as a very large proportion of authentic Anglicanism has been driven from the old places, nor do I consider Canterbury as having the relevance it formerly did as Canterbury now ordains women and tolerates or advances many other heretical positions.

With regard to the Queen, the overwhelming majority of either those called Anglican or those cleaving to traditional Anglicanism are not part of the state Church of England, nor of the British nation.

Warwickensis said...

Indeed, Ed, and some of these family resemblances are very superficial or arbitrary. Yet, all of them are being used to justify "Anglicanism".

The Established Church often denies the "Anglicanism" of the Continuing Church on the grounds of not fulfilling some of these lighter weight criteria and ignoring greater and more compelling resemblances.